Hot Dish: June 11, 2008
By Ivan Seligman
Inside the Gulfshore’s Dining Scene.
Crü’s Class Is in Session
Chef Brian Roland and sous chef Richie Wilim of Fort Myers' Crü restaurant are cooking up a storm this summer and fall! They’re offering cooking classes at 1 p.m. one Sunday each month, June through December, for only $55 a lesson. Lessons start with “Sautéeing and Searing” on June 22, followed by “Grilling” on July 20, to create some succulent meats, vegetables and sauces. You get to eat the tasty lessons, as well as watch live, or on screen, in the main dining room! Other course topics and dates include: “Stocks and Sauces” on August 17, “Tailgate Party” on September 21, “Oktoberfest” on October 19, “Thanksgiving Dinner” on November 16 and “Holiday Feasting” on December 7. Can’t wait till then to start cooking summertime delights, then try chef Brian’s recipe for Summer Heirloom Tomato & Buffalo Mozzarella Salad **, with fig and almond jam, avocado oil, fresh basil, fleur de sel and cider vinaigrette. Call (239) 466-3663 for reservations or more information or visit the Web site at www.crufoodandwine.com. **see below for recipe
Eurasia fuses Vietnamese and Italian Cuisine in Naples
The marriage between established chef Ettore Mancini (“chef Eddy” of Marco Island) and his wife, Monique Tran Mancini, set the stage for Eurasia, the refreshing restaurant offering both high quality Vietnamese and Italian cuisine. We ran out of superlatives for the lightness and freshness of chef Mancini’s and chef Tom Tran’s ingredients. Start with the large Vietnamese crêpe—shrimp, tender pork, and sprouts; sample the lightness of the translucent summer rolls, and feast on the overwhelming portion of Pho, the classic soup. Cross over: the Italian side’s quality is just as high with a garden-fresh eggplant, crab-stuffed mushrooms, or veal rollatini. Barely open three weeks on the East Trail, they have filled their dining room already, just by word of mouth. Well worth a drive! Eurasia, 8793 Tamiami Trail East, #120 in St. Andrews Square (east of St. Andrew’s traffic light), (239) 352-0888
Monarca's restaurant in Bonita Springs closed in May after only about six months in business. Named for the monarch butterfly, Alie Aguirre opened Monarca’s Dec. 1, 2007, after 18 months wading through paperwork and permitting to realizing the American Dream for her family. The restaurant was very popular, serving authentic Mexican foods. Alas, the owners feel clientele dwindled because of parking and access issues. The remaining Mexican restaurants nearby: Maria’s, El Mesquite, El Sarape Taqueria and El Paisano.
Habaneros closed recently on Third Avenue North near the hospital in downtown Naples. This was quickly filled by Richard and Lynn Elias’s Richies. The nearby Natural Chicken Grill at 470 Tamiami Trail North closed about eight months ago. This now leaves Wahoo’s, Grouper and Chips and Starbucks as the most popular spots serving a couple thousand diners from the hospital’s around-the-clock staff.
Tropical Getaway Right On U.S. 41
Fort Myers’ new Sandy Parrot Tiki Bar and Grill is packing them in at the tables and bar! Located south of Alico Road, at the renovated former site of Margarita Grill, it features an open, invitingly casual tropical setting with underwater murals, a tall saltwater fish tank and a Chickee or Tiki palm frond-thatched roof. This is the first restaurant of Michael Quill and Renee Notes, in collaboration with her parents, Joel and Carol Notes. Patrons’ favorites include the Tiki rolls with blue crab, cream cheese and red pepper in a tasty riff on crab Rangoon; six-ounce burgers; and fish tacos with grilled tilapia, mango salsa and shredded cabbage. Check out the broad range of evening musicians and daily happy hour specials from 2-7 p.m. at TheSandyParrot.com. Visit them at 17200 S. Tamiami Trail, Fort Myers, (239) 454-TIKI (8454).
Quench Your Every Thirst at Cgrape
Mai Nguyen’s successful CGrape Coffee and Wine Bar in the Liberty Bank plaza on Bonita Beach Road offers a variety of coffee choices from espresso to latte, from regular flavor to Chocolate Lovers’ Mocha. Teas range from English to flavored varieties. Juice, soda and non-alcoholic beverages are available, as well as wine and beer. The warm welcoming spot offers WiFi, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I like that it’s a comfortable environment to linger and return to. My favorites are the smoothies, mango shrimp salad and the varied paninis to munch on while enjoying the frequent live entertainment! CGrape Coffee and Wine Bar, 4450 Bonita Beach Road, #1 Bonita Springs, (239) 269-7813.
Tastebuds of Naples
Chef Greg Shapiro, in addition to helping out at Chardonnay Nouveau, has Tastebuds of Naples Catering still going strong, covering events from BBQ and birthdays to formal weddings. Tastebuds of Naples Catering, (239) 774-FOOD.
E-mail me your hints and experiences to email@example.com and let’s broaden our choices of great Southwest Florida restaurants together.
**The Cru Recipe by Chef Brian Roland
Summer Heirloom Tomato & Buffalo Mozzarella Salad
Fig & Almond Jam, Avocado Oil, Fresh Basil, Fleur de Sel & Cider Vinaigrette
2 each Heirloom Tomatoes, sliced
2 oz. Buffalo Mozzarella, sliced
½ oz. Avocado Oil (to drizzle)
4 leaves Fresh Basil (Micro Basil if Available)
1 pinch Fleur de Sel
1 pinch Cracked Black Pepper
For the Jam:
1 Cup Dried Figs (Stemmed and cut in half)
¼ Cup Port Wine
¼ Cup Shiraz
1 tsp. Salt
½ Cup Sugar
½ Cup Toasted Almonds (Marcona from Spain if available)
Method: Place all ingredients (leaving out almonds) in a pot and simmer until liquid reduces by ¾ (approximately 20 minutes), then remove and cool briefly for five minutes. Place in a high-speed blender or food processor with almonds and puree until smooth. Cool mixture and serve.
For the Cider Vinaigrette:
Salt & Pepper
Method: Whisk cider in a stainless steel bowl. Slowly drizzle in the canola oil, to taste. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To Assemble: Season heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella with fleur de sel and black pepper. Alternate slices of heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella with fresh basil. Dress with the cider vinaigrette and avocado oil. Garnish the top and the plate with small spoonfuls of fig and almond jam.